Harsh Mander: A lesson in how to end the mass suffering unleashed by India’s first lockdown -Harsh Mander
A report by the collective Hunger Watch reveals the extent of continuing hunger caused by state policy, and recommends ways to end the distress.
A spectacularly uncaring, unaccountable state has abandoned Indians to their fate. Bodies are piling up, pyres burn late into the night, and corpses are buried in anonymous mass graves. Loved ones are choking to death because their governments failed to secure them oxygen. Vaccines have fallen short in a country that prides itself as the vaccine factory of the world. Black marketeering thrives in life-saving hospital beds, medicines and oxygen concentrators. Confused lockdowns have once again spurred the panicked exodus of millions of migrant workers. Hunger mounts in the households of informal casual workers who have nowhere to flee. The central government cynically encourages massive religious congregations and election rallies, as a chief minister threatens to arrest you under the National Security Act and confiscate your property if you complain that you cannot find oxygen to save your loved ones.
The second wave of the pandemic is again holding the country hostage. It is shaking the foundations of our republic, betraying its iridescent pledges of equality, justice and fraternity. All the while, as the economy contracts alarmingly, tens of millions of impoverished Indians face an invisible calamity of mass hunger and stolen jobs.
It will be hard for generations of the working poor in India to erase the memory of the national nightmare that began when, with less than four hours’ notice, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on March 24, 2020, the peremptory closure of the country’s economy. This was a public act without precedent in the history of India and, given its scale and the negligible state support offered to the working poor, in the history of the planet. An intense humanitarian crisis resulted from this harsh lockdown, creating a massive explosion of hunger and joblessness countrywide, beginning with cities and towns. That the severe lockdown would lead to an eruption of mass anger was inevitable in a country where nine out of ten workers continue to be informal, and millions eat what they earn each day. Most workers in India have little or no social protection or savings to shield them against calamities, much less against calamities created by state policy.
Scroll.in, 14 May, 2021, https://scroll.in/article/994378/harsh-mander-a-lesson-in-how-to-end-the-mass-suffering-unleashed-by-indias-first-lockdown